Evaluating Your Job Offer’s Compensation Package

Evaluating Your Job Offer’s Compensation Package

Taunee Besson, CMF, CareerCast.com Senior Columnist

Question: I haven’t looked for a job for a long time. Consequently, I have no idea how my current compensation package compares to equivalent positions in the job market. How do I determine whether an offer is fair or not?

Answer: When most job seekers hear the word compensation, they think money. But there’s a lot more to your compensation package than a monthly check. Benefits and perks typically comprise about 25–33% of your total package. And, the higher you go in an organization, the bigger role these components play. A VP’s salary can be a fraction of the value of his stock options.

Fortunately, many benefits and perks such as medical insurance and training are not taxed. Consequently, an offer with great benefits and a mediocre income may actually be more lucrative than one with a top-of-the-line income and poor perks.

Before you start interviewing, it’s smart to choose the most important elements for your desired compensation package and rank them in order of importance. Also, do some research to find out what the market is typically paying for someone with your background and level of expertise to be sure your expectations are in the ballpark. Then when you get an offer, you can easily compare its income, benefits and perks to 100% of what you want and the career/industry average. Below is a table to help you do just that.

  • Job Comparison Table
Exempt Position Ideal Job Job Offer Difference Favorable/(Unfavorable) Career/Industry Average
Quantifiable Criteria
Base Salary $75,000 $70,000 ($5,000) $72,000
Performance Bonus $10,000 $10,000 $0 $6,000
Stock Options $2,000 $3,000 $1,000 $2,000
Company 401(k) Match 6% 2% 0 3%
Signing Bonus $5,000 $3,000 ($2,000) $3,000
Weeks of Vacation 3 2 (1) 2
Non-quantifiable Criteria
Medical Insurance Excellent Excellent Equal Good
Training Program Good Excellent Better Good
Flexible Work Schedule Good Good Equal Fair
Casual Dress Code 5 Days Friday (Worse) Friday
Telecommuting Ability Good Not Available (Worse) Not Available


Column 1 is a popular list of recruiting incentives that probably include your top priorities. If other issues are more important to you, substitute them for those I’ve selected. In our example, columns 2 and 3 gives specific amounts for the quantifiable items in both ideal and job-offered compensation as well as qualitative scores: excellent, good, fair or poor for benefits and perks. Column 5 lists industry/career averages.

This example has both positive and negative variances. If your spreadsheet looks similar to this one, you may decide the differences between your ideal job and your offer aren’t worth negotiating or your pluses and minuses balance each other. In this illustration, both the current position and the offer are better than the career/industry average. If any of the above are true for you, take the offer.

On the other hand, if you decide to counteroffer for 100% of what you want, go for it. You are the number one candidate. Your potential employer wants to get to “yes”. If you take the initiative you may receive your ideal package or closer to it.


Senior Columnist Taunee Besson, CMF, is president of Career Dimensions, Inc., a consulting firm founded in 1979 that works with individual and corporate clients in career transition, job search, executive coaching, talent management and small business issues. She is an award-winning columnist for CareerJournal.com and a best-selling author of the Wall Street Journal's books on resumes and cover letters. Her articles on a variety of career issues have appeared on numerous career/job websites and trade and business journals. Ms. Besson has been quoted numerous times in The Wall Street Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Business Week, Time, Smart Money, and a number of other websites and publications.

Career Topics
Salary & Benefits